Transformers: Dark of the Moon Review

Transformers: Dark of the Moon ReviewSynopsis
When the Transformers learn that an ancient Cybertonian ship is on the moon, the Autobots must race to discover its secrets before the Decepticons do.

Review
After the disappointment of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, I went into the third live-action Transformers film with caution. Thankfully, Transformers: Dark of the Moon seems to have learned after Revenge of the Fallen and treats the audience with more respect. The humor isn’t as immature as before. In fact, there is not as much humor as there was previous films in the franchise. Whereas the last two films had jokes coming from multiple sources, this movie primarily relies on Shia LeBeouf to carry that aspect of it. Instead, it takes itself much more seriously, which ends up helping overall because the story is much bigger and epic than before. Like Revenge of the Fallen, it goes bigger than the films before in a true sequel fashion. This focus on the story and characters rather than the childish humor creates a much more engaging and exciting experience.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the definition of a β€œblockbuster” movie. It’s big, it’s loud, and it takes you on an adventure. It isn’t as glob-spanning as Revenge of the Fallen but that’s okay. While the world trotting grandeur isn’t there, the action is much bigger, which is saying something considering the last film. The best part is that this movie does a much better job of framing the action scenes around the robots than the previous films. There are still multiple close-ups during the fights making it tricky to see everything but for the most part, the camera stays further back, giving a better view of the fight, especially against the backdrop of Chicago during the final act.

I thought Transformers: Dark of the Moon was GOOD πŸ™‚ Just like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen went bigger than Transformers, Dark of the Moon goes bigger than Revenge of the Fallen. Even though the film is longer, the story is much more focused and the humor is much better, being toned back severely and being more serious in general. Overall, it is a vast improvement on all counts than the let down of its immediate predecessor in the franchise.

Trivia
According to ILM, the company employed its entire rendering machinery to use on the film. This added up to using more than 200,000 rendering hours per day, the equivalent of 22.8 years of render time in 24 hours. (via IMDb)

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Michael Bay – Director
Ehren Kruger – Writer
Steve Jablonsky – Composer

Shia LeBeouf – Sam Witwicky
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley – Carly
Josh Duhamel – Lennox
John Turturro – Simmons
Alan Tudyk – Dutch
Tyrese Gibson – Epps
Patrick Dempsey – Dylan
Frances McDormand – Mearing
Kevin Dunn – Ron Witwicky
Julie White – Judy Witwicky
John Malkovich – Bruce Brazos
Ken Jeong – Jerry Wang
Glenn Marshower – General Marshower
Peter Cullen – Optimus Prime (voice)
Jess Harnell – Iron Hide (voice)
Robert Foxworth – Ratchet (voice)
James Remar – Sideswipe (voice)
Francesco Quinn – Dino (voice)
George Coe – Wheeljack (voice)
Tom Kenny – Que / Wheelie (voice)
Reno Wilson – Brains (voice)
Leonard Nimoy – Sentinel Prime (voice)
Hugo Weaving – Megatron (voice)
Charlie Adler – Starscream (voice)
Frank Welker – Soundwave / Shockwave (voice)
Keith Szarabajka – Laserbeak (voice)

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Review

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen movie posterSynopsis
As Sam (Shia LeBouf) heads off to college, he is once again pulled into the Transformers’ war when an ancient being known as β€œThe Fallen” (Tony Todd) makes his return to Earth.

Review
After greatly enjoying Transformers, I was excited to see Optimus and the rest of the Autobots return in another live-action outing. With Michael Bay returning and his pension to go big, I was expecting much of the same but more of it in the sequel. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen definitely takes a sequel’s β€œgo bigger” approach to heart but the rest is left wanting.

As I said in my review of Transformers, the Transformers have had multiple cartoon series over the years since Generation 1 came out in the 1980s. Transformers pulled primarily from the original incarnation but something I really liked about this sequel is that is also pulls much from the later series as well. Things like Energon being a fuel for Transformers, Optimus Prime and Jetfire combining, the first Primes and The Fallen, and a transformer having multiple vehicle modes are all pulled from later Transformers cartoons. There is a rich history in the multiple series over the years and the film pulled from many of them that a fan of any Transformers series is sure to recognize something.

Taking place a couple years after the first film, many new Transformers have made their way to Earth and are introduced in this film. With the expanded robotic cast, not many of them are expanded on. Much like the original series, the movie only focuses on a handful of characters while the rest are there to look cool and show off the latest car models at the time. However, since the human characters are the most important in this story and most of the time is focused around them, I’m not too worried about learning everything about every Autobot and Decepticon that is in the film.

Like the first film, Revenge of the Fallen has a pretty lengthy run time. This time, however, the pacing feels more smooth. There are still plenty of explosions and much exposition but the transitions between the two wasn’t as jarring as the film before. However, it’s a catch-22 because more time is spent making sure the transitions feel better but with that comes a feeling that there is too much packed into this film.

I am not one to be turn away from a film because of toilet humor or if it goes for the easy joke. However, this film was very juvenile, even for me. I understand that this is based around a children’s show (something I have brought up before) but that’s no excuse to treat the audience like children.

I thought Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was OK 😐 After enjoying the first live-action Transformers film so much, I was disappointed in its sequel. While I liked aspects of this movie, there was so much excess of everything that it squandered what I did enjoy. I wasn’t expecting a masterpiece, but I wasn’t expecting such a let down either.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Michael Bay – Director
Ehren Kruger – Writer
Roberto Orci – Writer
Alex Kurtzman – Writer
Steve Jablonsky – Composer

Shia LaBeouf – Sam Witwicky
Megan Fox – Mikaela Banes
Josh Duhamel – Major Lennox
Tyrese Gibson – USAF Chief Master Sergeant Epps
John Turturro – Simmons
Ramon Rodriguez – Leo Spitz
Kevin Dunn – Ron Witwicky
Julie White – Judy Witwicky
Isabel Lucas – Alice
John Benjamin Hickey – Galloway
Glen Morshower – General Morshower
Rain Wilson – Professor Colan
Peter Cullen – Optimus Prime (voice)
Jess Harnell – Ironhide (voice)
Robert Foxworth – Ratchet (voice)
Andre Sogluizzo – Sideswipe (voice)
Reno Wilson – Mudflap (voice)
Tom Kenny – Skids / Wheelie (voice)
Mark Ryan – Jetfire (voice)
Hugo Weaving – Megatron (voice)
Charlie Adler – Starscream (voice)
Frank Welker – Soundwave / Devastator / Reedman (voice)
Tony Todd – Fallen (voice)

Transformers Review

Transformers movie posterSynopsis
When Earth becomes a battleground between two factions of a warring alien race, Sam Witwicky (Shia LeBeouf) must help Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) and his team of Autobots defeat the evil Megatron (Hugo Weaving) and his Decepticon forces.

Review
The original 1980s Transformers cartoon (often referred to as Generation 1 or G1) was a cornerstone of many childhoods for those who grew up at that time. Over the years, many iterations of characters such as Optimus Prime, Megatron, and the rest of the Autobots and Decepticons have made their way to the hearts of many other generations of children, including myself. I remember being extremely excited when a live-action Transformers film was announced. I enjoyed Transformers back in 2007 and still enjoy it today.

Before I get started, I want to say that yes, Transformers is far from perfect. But remember, this is based on a children’s show, which itself was driven by the Transformers toy line. The Generation 1 series in particular was wild and all over the place in terms of characters and story. Could the story have been created in a way that honored the original 1980s series but still felt updated? Absolutely. But with Michael Bay at the helm, that most likely wasn’t going to happen. There is also plenty of corny dialogue that would make anyone who considers themselves highbrow would scoff at. However, taking it for what it is, this is an enjoyable film for a laid back afternoon.

With Bay directing, you can expect lot of explosions and big action pieces. Given this movie stars giant talking battling robots, β€œbig action” is an understatement. As the characters trek across different landscapes throughout the world, each action scene presents its own unique action piece. My biggest gripe against many of the action sequences is it can be hard to always see everything happening in the fight. Often, the camera will zoom close to the characters while they are brawling. Since many of them look similar up close it can be hard to discern what exactly is going on. These robotic beings are stories tall so it would be cool to see the scale of their battles compared to the buildings around them.

There is plenty of humor throughout the film. Something I have found after multiple viewings (I’ve lost track how many times I’ve seen this film) is that it doesn’t necessarily hold up. Some jokes still make me chuckle but most barely get a reaction out of me now. The movie is nowhere near as funny to me as it used to be. Thankfully this is an action movie, not a comedy, so the humor not holding up isn’t as big of a concern of mine.

While the cast is fairly large, there were a few stand outs. Firstly, is Kevin Dunn and Julie White as Ron and Judy Witwicky respectively. Whether together or individually, Dunn and White brought so many laughs and bring a bit of groundedness to a movie filled with building-size fighting robots. The other stand out performance was from the always humorous John Turturro. His over-the-top performance fits right in with the goofy nature of the film.

Peter Cullen is the voice of Optimus Prime in the Generation 1 Transformers television series. His return to the role in the live-action version of the character is a huge and rewarding bit of fan service. Hearing Cullen’s booming voice on the big screen feels right. Hugo Weaving voices Megatron and is a perfect fit for the character. It would have been great to see Frank Welker, the voice of Generation 1 Megatron, reprise his role but if he had kept the same voice as the cartoon counterpart, it would not have worked for this version of the character. Luckily, Weaving did a fantastic job bringing Megatron’s malice to the live-action iteration of the character.

Since this was assumed to be the start of a franchise, Transformers actually did a good job of keeping the story small and contained, building the world of Transformers. There were times where the exposition felt heavy but it also balanced well with the action and the rest of the film. Although that leads into my biggest complaint of the film: its length. At almost two and a half hours (including the end credits), it just feels like there is too much of everything; too much exposition and too much time spent in the action scenes. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of action pieces in an action movie. Here, however, the scenes overstay their welcome.

I thought Transformers was GREAT πŸ˜€ This isn’t a deep piece of cinema but it does exactly what it set out to do: introduce the Transformers and their universe to the big screen. As long as you take this film for what it is supposed to be, popcorn entertainment based on a children’s show with very little plot, then you will find a lot to enjoy and maybe even having a good time.

Trivia
The military provided their vehicles as the alternate modes of the Decepticons Starscream and Bonecrusher. They also allowed their F-22 and CV-22 aircraft to be filmed[.] Soldiers served as extras, and authentic uniforms were provided for the actors. In return for the favor, the filmmakers provided an advance screening of the film to the soldiers, free of charge. (via IMDb)

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Michael Bay – Director
Robert Orci – Screenplay / Story
Alex Kurtzman – Screenplay / Story
John Rogers – Story
Steve Jablonsky – Composer

Shia LaBeouf – Sam Witwicky
Megan Fox – Mikaela Banes
Josh Duhmel – Captain Lennox
Tyrese Gibson – USAF Tech Sergeant Epps
Rachael Taylor – Maggie Madsen
Anthony Anderson – Glen Whitmann
Jon Voight – Defense Secretary John Keller
John Turturro – Agent Simmons
Michael O’Neill – Tom Banacheck
Kevin Dunn – Ron Witwicky
Julie White – Judy Witwicky
Peter Cullen – Optimus Prime (voice)
Darius McCrary – Jazz (voice)
Robert Foxworth – Ratchet (voice)
Jess Harnell – Ironhide / Barricade (voice)
Hugo Weaving – Megatron (voice)
Charlie Adler – Starscream (voice)
Jim Wood – Bonecrusher (voice)
Reno Wilson – Frenzy (voice)

Mortal Kombat (2021) Review

Mortal Kombat (2021) movie posterSynopsis
Cole Young (Lewis Tan) finds himself embroiled in a multi-dimensional tournament known as Mortal Kombat, fighting for the fate of Earth.

Review
Adapting a movie from a game franchise has had notoriously poor results. Some have fared okay while most have been disastrous. Thankfully, the latest adaptation of the popular fighting game of the same name finds itself on the better side as far as video game adaptations go. Mortal Kombat is by no means a thought-provoking or life-changing movie, but it does provide a good two hours worth of popcorn entertainment. The film opens with a brutal scene set in seventeenths century Japan, setting up that this film will be just as violent as the game series it is adapting. This movie actually does a good job of balancing the action scenes with character scenes. Unfortunately, because the film does provide a lot of time for character development, there are pacing issues towards the latter portion of the film when the movie finally gets to, and rushes through, the β€œtournament.”

The Mortal Kombat games have been around for nearly 30 years and has a roster consisting of dozens of characters that the film can pull from. Thankfully, it only uses a handful of these characters as to not overwhelm the story with trying to fit as many characters as possible. There are bound to be fan favorites left out but if they’re lucky, they’ll see their favorite characters in any potential sequels. There are also many easter eggs and homages throughout Mortal Kombat that audiences are sure to pick up, whether they are casual or hardcore fans of the games. Some of these call outs did feel forced but overall their inclusions were a nice touch.

I thought Mortal Kombat was GOOD πŸ™‚ If you are a fan of the game franchise, there is going to be a lot here that you’re going to enjoy. The focused cast, stylishly violent action sequences, and plenty of humor from Josh Lawson combine for a fierce and entertaining ride from start to finish.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Simon McQuoid – Director
Greg Russo – Screenplay / Story
Dave Callaham – Screenplay
Oren Uziel – Story
Benjamin Wallfisch – Composer

Lewis Tan – Cole Young
Jessica McNamee – Sonya Blade
Mehcad Brooks – Jax
Josh Lawson – Kano
Ludi Lin – Liu Kang
Max Huang – Kung Lao
Tabanobu Asano – Lord Raiden
Hiroyuki Sanada – Hanzo Hasashi / Scorpion
Laura Bent – Allison
Matilda Kimber – Emily
Jose Taslim – Bi-Han / Sub-Zero
Chin Han – Shang Tsung
Sisi Stringer – Mileena
Mel Jarnson – Nitara
Nathan Jones – Reiko
Daniel Nelson – Kabal
Ian Streetz – Ramirez

Greenland Review

Greenland movie posterSynopsis
When comet fragments begin crashing down to Earth, John Garrity (Gerard Butler) sets off on a journey with his family from their home in Georgia to bunkers in Greenland before the biggest of the fragments strikes the planet.

Review
For as much of a catastrophe that 2020 was, it’s quite appropriate that one of the final films released this year is a disaster movie. You would be forgiven if you go into Greenland expecting a cheesy adventure often seen within the genre. And while this film does contain some of the tropes expected from this sort of film, it does manage to find an authenticity not often found in disaster movies. This all stems from Gerard Butler and his every-man portrayal of John Garrity, who is merely a structural engineer trying to protect his family. He is not indestructible, nor does he become this insanely good fighter like is often seen. Rather, he simply uses his wits to protect his family. Greenland is surprisingly down to Earth, focusing on the family dynamic between John, his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), and their son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd). While similar films have attempted this approach, Greenland manages to do it more successfully. Of course, it helps that Butler, Baccarin and Floyd all have great chemistry together. As the trio journey to from the southern United States to Greenland, they meet many different characters along the way. The movie uses this structure to display the different ways people would react and behave during such a calamity. It’s a powerful and effective way to examine human nature.

I thought Greenland was GOOD πŸ™‚ Choosing to focus on humanity and family rather than the impending disaster, it manages to strike a surprising emotional cord for this type of film. This smaller focus does prevent some of the genre’s more obnoxious flaws from surfacing, however it doesn’t avoid them completely. Nonetheless, Greenland is one of the better disaster films out there and feels like a fitting end to the disaster that is 2020.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Ric Roman Waugh – Director
Chris Sparling – Writer
David Buckley – Composer

Gerard Butler – John Garrity
Morena Baccarin – Allison Garrity
Roger Dale Floyd – Nathan Garrity
Scott Glenn – Dale

Tenet Review

Tenet movie posterSynopsis
A CIA agent (John David Washington) is recruited into a secret organization known as β€œTenet,” who are trying to prevent a catastrophe worse than Armageddon.

Review
Over the years, Christopher Nolan has made a name for himself with his high-concept films, containing multiple levels, where nothing is exactly what it seems, and often require several rewatches to fully grasp the nuances and details of the story. With Tenet, Christopher Nolan might have made the most Christopher Nolan film to date. From the explosive opening scene to the mind-bending final scene, Tenet continuously leaves you feeling one step behind as you try to put the pieces together before realizing you aren’t even working on the same puzzle as Nolan is working with.

One thing I really appreciate in Nolan’s style of film making is his commitment to practical effects. Zero green screens were used during the production of this movie, which is an impressive feat given the idea that people and objects can move backwards in time or the scale of some of the action pieces. Nolan’s sincerity in wanting to keep everything in-camera creates a level of authenticity in Tenet that very few action films these days have. We’ve seen directors more and more in recent years move away from CGI back towards practical effects and I for one could not be happier. While there have been some really great worlds created with computer special effects, nothing beats feeling like what you’re watching on screen is real. Hopefully with this film, Nolan has inspired more directors to do more of the same.

In today’s world of remakes and reboots, Nolan has stood out as a director and writer who regularly brings original concepts to cinema. While Tenet does take inspiration from espionage thrillers of the past, and time travel movies have been done numerous times in Hollywood, there is still something that feels fresh and unique about the film. As I said, one of Nolan’s trademarks is a multi-layered story filled with details easily missed in the initial viewing and that is no less true in Tenet, which given the way the film uses time-travel, multiple watches are almost a necessity.

But with this film’s complexity comes a slow start. As exciting as the opening scene was, it took some time to get going. In order to properly get the idea of inversion across required a bit of exposition. Also, not much is given on what the organization of Tenet is or what exactly they are doing. As a result, a fair chunk of the beginning I felt lost as to what John David Washington’s character was doing and working towards. I don’t think the character knew exactly either and by keeping the audience in the dark as well, Nolan was trying to put us in the same boat as the character. While this can work, taking too long to get to the payoff can become frustrating and remove the audience member from the film. Once I really got into the idea of inversion and at least some idea of the plans of Washington’s character then I was able to settle into the film more. However, there was still a lot left unrevealed until the final act, and sometimes even the final minutes. The same can be said for the characters themselves, who receive very little in terms of development. Even though much is disclosed in the end, it does little to help their development.

Of course, what might have contributed to my confusion was the fact that it was very difficult to hear what the characters were saying half of the time. Another signature of a Nolan film is a boisterous score. And while such a score can work, the sound mixing in Tenet made it more of a burden than an enhancement. It’s hard to understand what is happening when you cannot hear the exposition.

I thought Tenet was GOOD πŸ™‚ In classic Christopher Nolan fashion, this film has an ambitious concept with a very intricate plot that will certainly require multiple viewings to fully catch all of the details. As a fan of great action sequences, this film is chock full of amazing set pieces all done using practical effects for an absolutely stunning experience. However, the beautiful wrapping covers up a lack of any character development and the score is the most in-your-face and obtrusive of any of Nolan’s films. Nonetheless, Tenet’s originality and creativity is refreshing in today’s landscape of remakes and reboots.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Christopher Nolan – Director / Writer
Ludwig GΓΆransson – Composer

John David Washington – The Protagonist
Robert Pattinson – Neil
Elizabeth Debicki – Kat
Kenneth Branagh – Andrei Sator
Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Ives
Himesh Patel – Mahir
ClΓ©mence PoΓ©sy – Barbara
Michael Cain – Michael Crosby
Dimple Kapadia – Priya
Martin Donovan – Victor
Fiona Dourif – Wheeler